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Do You Ship Us? - 7. Performance Anxiety

The next week went by with an air of discomfort in the group, Jasper was barely talking to anyone at all outside of things that were directly relating to their music and it seemed very out of character for him. He seemed to be very hung up on their comments about his relationship and withdrawing from talking to them rather than arguing like he normally would. So there was a sensitive topic he wouldn't talk about, his mysterious and illogical sounding relationship that fueled Ryan's intrigue but couldn't be brought up. With very little time to prepare, their manager announces that they would be doing a morning news interview and a mini show to introduce Ryan and let the fans get to know him more, tomorrow. Ryan was really anxious about the show, even though Jasper had thrown himself straight into damage control, continually reminding him he wouldn’t be singing alone and that he would just sing quietly so his voice would blend in with everyone else. He convinced Ryan that he would be fine and Ryan believed him. Jasper believed himself too, until the manager walks in to the green room before the show to make an announcement to the group.

“So, the last song on the set list, is going to be Ryan’s to sing alone, to introduce him to the fans and show off his ability.” The manager announces with a devious smile as he watches the shock on everyone else’s face. Ryan was speechless trying to contain the panic that had just sent his body cold.

“Uh...” He starts and desperately looks to Jasper for help, though he didn't need to because Jasper was snapped out of his silent mood and ready for the fight.

“He’s not ready to perform, are you kidding me?” Jasper says bluntly, not even bothering to look at Ryan or the others, his eyes were burning with hatred towards their manager, a week worth of being annoyed at everyone finally having someone he could take his anger out on.

“You take him for a quick warm up and run through.” The manager answers and starts walking away down the hallway, waving a hand carelessly to dismiss Jasper's concern.

“A ‘quick warm up and run through’ isn’t going to do shit! He’s vocally not there. He cannot perform solo. He needs more training than what, two weeks worth?” Jasper storms after the manager, not about to drop this.

“I’ve made my mind up Jasper.” The manager shouts over his shoulder.

“Yeah you pulled the decision right out of your ass just like you woke up and decided to add him to the band. Don’t bother asking the other people this will effect. What the fuck are you thinking?" Jasper snaps.

“No one put you in charge Jasper, get off your high horse and do as you’re told.”

“Well excuse the absolute shit out of me, but you asked me to vocally train him so I’ve been working with him to get his voice ready for less than two weeks. When was the last time you heard him sing? He isn’t ready and this will ruin us.” Jasper rages, grabbing the manager’s shoulder not sure what else he could do to get through to him.

“Don’t lay a hand on me.” The manager turns to Jasper, his fist clenched and lifting to the bottom of his ribs before he stops himself going further because Blake was running to Jasper’s rescue, Jasper doesn’t back down, instead testing the manager by getting right in his face as though daring him to throw a punch. “You work for me. You work under me. You are not responsible for making decisions about what is best for the band. I am looking at the big picture, this will be good for you all.” Chris tells him through gritted teeth.

And you think these stunts you’re pulling is what’s best for the band? What does it do for the band if I refuse to get on stage?” Jasper asks, stepping back from Chris and crossing his arms.

“You let down a lot of your fans. Is it worth it for a temper tantrum?” The manager sneers. Blake puts his arm around Jasper's shoulders and turns him around and starts walking him back down the hallway to where the members were with their heads peeking around the door looking very confused about what was going on. Ryan was pacing the room feeling agonizingly nauseous at the thought of performing solo.

“He’ll be fine Jas, I’m sure you’ve got him to a point where he is capable of singing one song.” Blake suggests with confidence.

“Sorry Ryan, I tried but he’s determined to have you sing. You’ll just have to give it your absolute best and try not to panic.” Jasper stops in front of Ryan, he could feel the stress emulating off him as Ryan looks into his eyes.

“Try not to panic, right. Yeah.” Ryan nods, fairly sure he's having a heart attack at this point.

“How long have we got?” Jasper looks over his shoulder at Blake.

“10 minutes.” Blake shrugs, checking his phone to confirm it.

“Come with me.” Jasper grabs Ryan by the hand and leads him to the next room, checking that it is open and empty before walking inside with him.

“Jasper, I’m so sorry but I am not ready to sing in front of people.” Ryan tells him, panic on his face as he fiddles with a titanium band on his thumb. “I don’t think I can. I really just don’t think I can do this. I sound like shit. Everyone will hate me, this will ruin the band. I don’t want to ruin it for you guys.”

“I think that’s the most I’ve heard you talk since you joined the group.” Jasper comments, raising his eyebrows at Ryan’s panicked talking.

“Sorry. Word vomit.” Ryan apologizes, covering his face with his hands and taking a deep breath. “When I get nervous...” Jasper takes Ryan's hand again and places it in the middle of his chest, taking a deep breath in as he holds Ryan's eye contact. Ryan looks at him confused and it takes his mind momentarily off the reason Jasper had pulled him aside right now. As Jasper draws in another deep breath he watches Ryan inhale calmly too. Jasper holds his breath, Ryan copies then Jasper lets out his breath again with Ryan letting out his breath too.

“No offence, but we don’t have time for meltdowns and panic, you need to calm down, you’re going to have to sing so warm up your voice.” Jasper orders now that he has Ryan in a calmer state.

 

Jasper looks down at his feet as the song starts and he listens to Ryan inhale, his weak voice beginning to sing, quiet and a little shaky with nerves. Jasper chews his lip then looks over at Ryan and smiles at him, knowing the fans would be shocked and that they would take this better if it seemed like the band were behind him on this, even though for the rest of them, they had not heard Ryan until now and were trying to contain their own surprise at just how unprepared his vocals were. Ryan’s hand holding the microphone was shaking and he looked like he had tears forming in his eyes, Jasper silently begs his body not to react when he hears Ryan straining to try and sing louder for the mostly silent audience.

While they’d been waiting to come out on stage Jasper had told the other’s to sing if Ryan was struggling. None of them seemed to think it was a good idea to go against the managers wishes but he figured they might understand better now, Ryan needed them to have his back. Jasper looks over at Blake who was staring at Ryan deadpan, trying not to look like he was mortified. Blake notices Jasper looking at him and smiles back at him quickly, Jasper gives him a nod and wink then raises the microphone to his lips and comes in at the bridge with Ryan, his sweet melodic voice smoothing over the rougher notes that Ryan wasn't quite hitting. Together they sounded good and the fans start cheering as Jasper walks over to Ryan's side, affectionately placing a hand on his shoulder and singing his line directly to Ryan before shooting the audience a cheeky grin. This was what he did best, he knew what sent the fans into a frenzy and was willing to play it up as a distraction. Blake, Luke and Simon come in at the chorus, the whole group sounded awesome and the fans were all for it, screaming excitedly at the boys on stage. Simon takes over the verse after the chorus, which was usually his solo verse anyway and it was agreed without even needing to talk that they would all just sing their normal lines. This gave Jasper a few moments to talk to Ryan quickly. He puts his microphone by his side so the audience wouldn’t hear him, and leans in to whisper to Ryan, an action that had the audience screaming again, especially as Jasper had his hand on Ryan's, lowering his microphone too to make sure this would stay between them.

“Like we’ve practiced, gentle and quiet. Don’t force your voice to hit notes it can’t hit yet, just relax your voice and don't strain it.” Jasper steps back from Ryan with a smile on his face, Ryan looks at him and smiles then nods and raises the microphone again, continuing the next verse more delicately and quietly as instructed. Simon sings along with Ryan, as this was usually still his lines, his voice actually worked well with Ryan’s as it was a polarizing opposite, the strong and confident ballad type. Ryan stops singing and turns to Jasper, leaning in to talk to him again as a wave of panic hits him and his fight or flight response tells him to run.

“I can’t do this I’m sorry.” He takes a step and Jasper grabs his arm.

“Don’t walk off. Show them that you are deserving of your spot in the band. Make them see your worth.” Jasper advises quickly, his hand sliding down Ryan's arm and holding the microphone. Ryan looks at him and licks his lips understanding what Jasper was suggesting he should do and loosening his grip on the microphone. Jasper takes it, pretending like this was all planned and taking a few steps away from Ryan so he had room to show off his talent. Jasper, Simon, Luke and Blake start singing at the chorus again and Ryan starts improvising some dance moves while his band mates sing. The screams from the audience has the rest of the band looking over at him again, this time for a good reason. His dancing was brilliant. Ryan runs out of ideas of dance moves after the chorus. Jasper quickly returns to his side, handing him back the microphone and winking at him. Ryan nervously starts singing the last bridge before the final chorus. Jasper starts clapping, the other members joining in along with the audience. The clapping taking some of the attention off Ryan’s voice again and the final chorus is sung by all the members.

The song finishes and Jasper pulls Ryan to the middle of the stage as the members form a line, holding hands to bow and thank the audience. Jasper was between Ryan and Blake. They lift their hands up and bow, then Jasper lets go of Blake's hand and lifts his microphone to his lips, still holding Ryan's hand up in the air.

“Big cheer for Ry, guys. He’s had a nasty cold the last few weeks but didn’t want to let you down.” Jasper lies to the fans who all cheer loudly in response. The members turn to Ryan and clap for him with big smiles on their faces. Jasper lets go of his hand and gestures for him to bow again, taking this cheer all for himself.

“Sorry.” Ryan apologizes to the fans, feeling as though he’d cheated them, there was a roar of applause and screaming again to reassure him that he had not made a bad impression, despite being set up to fail by Chris.

“Thank you guys for an awesome show, we can’t wait to be back soon with our new album!” Simon takes over the goodbyes, as he usually did while the rest of the members just hang around. Blake flings his arm around Jasper and Jasper leans into him, knowing it was over shadowing Simon's goodbye speech. Any time Jasper and Blake interacted they had the attention of the fans and they knew it. It's how they had ended up so popular. While Simon and Luke were good at the professional side of things, Jasper and Blake were absolutely brilliant at playing on the fantasy that they had some kind of secret romance that their fans very passionately supported and shipped. Jasper brushes Blake's sweaty fringe out of his face and Blake settles his hand on Jasper's hip with Luke starts leading them all off stage, once they were in the wings, Blake lets go of Jasper and they start laughing about being self proclaimed 'masters of fanservice'.

“Thank you for covering for me.” Ryan leans over and says quietly to Jasper.

“All good, you’re one of us, we look out for each other. You shouldn’t have been put in that position.” Jasper replies, unhooking the earpod that was taped to his neck and undoing the top few buttons of his shirt.

“Nicely done Jasper.” The manager interrupts them, waiting in the hallway for them to talk about their performance.

“I have nothing to say to you right now.” Jasper scowls at their manager, his attitude instantly kicking back into overdrive. He really was different on stage, in his element egging on the audience and playing up his personality to whatever was most interesting to the fans, which seemed to be him being flirty with the members and the audience. His stage presence was fun, carefree and teasing, yet now in front of the manager again he had the festering frustration bubbling within him.

“The ‘he has a cold’ line really won them over though. You’ve got the pity of the fans now Ryan. That’s a good thing, they will be defending you and building you up now.” The manager shrugs, genuinely happy with how the show had ended, like he could take credit for Jasper's quick thinking. Ryan sighs, he was starting to understand what Jasper's problem with Chris was, it was more than just adding another member to the band without warning. His motives weren't clear and it didn't seem as though he actually know what he was doing, or that he knew exactly what he was doing and was purposefully trying to take them down. Either way, Ryan had a headache and he didn’t want to be involved in this conversation at all, especially feeling as betrayed as he did right now.

“You are despicable.” Jasper rolls his eyes at the manager. “You can’t act like that went well, you tried to ruin him, Ryan was about to walk the fuck off the stage embarrassed because you put pressure on him and demanded he do something he wasn’t capable of doing well just yet. Is that what you wanted? To destroy what little confidence he has and make him feel like trash in the process? We're not fucking toys.” Jasper declares, apparently having plenty to say to him afterall.

“A little drama never hurt a band.” Chris shrugs, slipping his hands into his pockets.

“Yeah, but a singer that can’t sing sure does.” Jasper mutters and turns around again, walking off before he could say anything else to get himself into trouble.

Claire Rosalind
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The manager's unreasonable insistence that Ryan sing before he is ready is changing the dynamic between Ryan and Jasper, as Jasper finds himself confronting the manager to protect Ryan.

 

Also, is the manager purposely trying to sabotage the band? (Though I can't fathom why he'd do so, the manager has been making some peculiar decisions, sometimes delivered or explained with a sneer.)  Or maybe he just has a big ego. Time will tell.

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Seems to me the manager is living in his own bubble, thinking he knows what's best and refusing to listen to anyone else.

It's nice of Jasper to defend Ryan (tho he was more trying to protect the band in general), I just hope his behavior doesn't get him kicked out of the band.

Also, have they never heard of lipsynching? :P they wouldn't be the first boyband to do that.

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I was ready to be sympathetic to the manager at the beginning of the story - dealing with a group of artistic (read: high strung) young men can't be easy. But this was ridiculously unprofessional - he may be in charge but he still has to work with them, as opposed to making decrees and expecting it all to work out. Yes, Jasper could handle himself better but it was strange how the manager didn't even ask him about Ryan's progress before making the decision to having him sing alone in his first public appearance. 

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